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AT THIS HOUR WITH BERMAN AND MICHAELA
Obama, Netanyahu Meet at White House; Calls for University of Missouri President to Resign; University of Missouri President Tim Wolfe Resigns. Aired 11-11:30a ET
Aired November 9, 2015 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[11:00:00] BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: So, for all these reasons, I want to thank you again for your hospitality, but even more so, for sustaining and strengthening the tremendous friendship and alliance between Israel and the United States of America.
Thank you very much, Mr. President.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you.
NETANYAHU: Thank you.
OBAMA: Thank you very much, everybody.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: I'm John Berman.
What you're looking at right now, a meeting in the Oval Office between American president Barack Obama and the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. It's been more than a year since those two men met. And what a year it has been. A year of tension between the two of them really with the Iran nuclear deal taking place. Benjamin Netanyahu coming to the United States, speaking before the American Congress against that deal. But today, again, for the first time in more than a year, they sat in the main room, the same room, and they were somewhat solicitous of each other. President Obama talked about the need for peace. Benjamin Netanyahu talked about his support of a two-state solution in the region. They shook hands and their body language, I would say, was even somewhat gentle toward each other.
BOLDUAN: I would say, yeah, absolutely, compared to their posture in the past. President Obama made -- make no mistake, he did point out when he said it's no secret these two men have not seen eye to eye at all when it comes to the United States and other countries negotiating that Iran nuclear deal, but how they work together going forward to prevent Iran obtaining and creating a nuclear weapon, President Obama says that's an area where they can find common ground.
Let's talk about this really momentous meeting. Highly anticipated meeting at the White House. Let's bring in our global affairs correspondent, Elise Labott. She's with us now. Elise, you traveled with the Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from Israel to the United States for that controversial speech he made before Congress in March, blasting the Iran nuclear deal. And now this meeting. What do you make of it? What did you hear in this meeting?
ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Kate. Listen, this year, as you said, it's been a real year of acrimony and animosity. Prime minister Netanyahu making clear he was going to do whatever he could to make sure that Iran deal did not go through. Well, as we know, that Iran deal has passed. It's on its way to implementation. And I think the prime minister is coming now to kind of see if -- how these two leaders can work together over the next year. He's clearly going to wait out President Obama to see if he does better with the next president, but, you know, in the wake of this Iran deals, he's thanking the president for the very robust security increased aid that the U.S. is going to be giving Israel over the next year to try and stop Iran's other activity against Israel. A lot of concerns not only about a nuclear deal, but also about counterterrorism. So, I think he came here a little bit contrite, looking for that special relationship that the U.S. and Israel has. These two leaders do need to work together -- Kate?
BERMAN: You actually see in the way they're sitting right there with Benjamin Netanyahu facing the president there, as if to say, I'm open to what you are saying right now. I'm open to these discussions, because these are two men who have not seen eye to eye quite literally for quite some time.
And Joe Johns is at the White House.
Both men said something both wants to hear. President Barack Obama said Israel and the citizens have the right and the need to defend themselves. They're talking about the response to terror attacks against Israeli citizens in Israeli proper and the Palestinian territories. And Benjamin Netanyahu said, for the president's benefit, I think, he still supports a two-state solution. He said two states for two people, which is something that I think he backed off of quite a lot during --
BERMAN: -- during the campaign in Israel.
Joe, what do you think?
JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: The question, of course, is whether there will be more talks. That doesn't seem likely, at least so far on that very issue. But look, no matter how you cut it, there's clearly some hope here in Washington that there's going to be a reset, a restart, a return to talking about shared values as opposed to what happened the last time Benjamin Netanyahu was here in the United States in that very contentious situation, the controversial speech before Congress, all of this with the backdrop of the Iran nuclear deal. So, a lot of reason for these two leaders to try to get along, as Elise said, over the next year while President Obama is still in office. And a lot more to talk about besides the Iran deal, including the situation in Syria, including the Palestinian question and the violence we've seen there. So, there's hope that something will happen here at the White House. And then Netanyahu goes on to speak to the American Enterprise Institute, the Center for American Progress. He's got a lot of people he's going to talk to while he's in town, and some suggestion, at least, this is very much about fence-mending.
[11:05:10] BERMAN: Well, of course, the last time he was in town he didn't talk to the president. So this time around, the mere fact they're in the same room talking appears to show some fence of my mending going on, even if the relationship between the two nations is closed and has been closed over time.
BOLDUAN: That personal relationship has definitely been on the rocks for quite some time.
BERMAN: Joe Johns, Elise Labott, thanks so much.
BOLDUAN: Thanks, guys.
BERMAN: Happening right now, racial tensions at the University of Missouri. They are coming to a head. Emergency talks getting started as we speak. African-American members of the school's football team are refusing to play until the university president resigns or is fired. Now the university student government has joined that call.
BOLDUAN: The president of the university, Tim Wolfe, he says he will not step down. This all comes after weeks of protests over a series of racially charged incidents, including racial slurs hurled at black students and a swastika drawn on a dorm wall. Graduate students and even faculty are calling for a walkout today on campus.
Let's get more on this and bring in Caroline Bauman, assistant city editor at the local newspaper, "The Columbia Missourian," and a graduate student as well in journalism at MisU, at the university.
Caroline, thank you for joining us.
The university's governing body is meeting right now amid these protests. What are they discussing? What are they deciding? What could come out of this, do you think?
CAROLINE BAUMAN, ASSISTANT CITY EDITOR, THE COLUMBIA MISSOURIAN: Sure, absolutely. Well, thank you so much for having me. I can't speculate, but we imagine the curators, the governing body, it's eight people appointed by the governor, they are the ones who can hire and fire university system presidents. So when they call an emergency closed meeting amidst the tension on our campus that is currently here, we have to speculate it's about what exactly to do and how best to move forward. The board of curators has not issued a statement yet regarding this, so we imagine they will today.
BERMAN: Now you have the football team saying it will not play. It could -- the school could lose $1 million plus on that. You have the student body government now saying the president should resign as well. You have many faculty members standing in solidarity with the students. Specifically, are they making clear what their concerns are or grievances are, for lack of a better word? I know they want the university president to resign, but resign over what, exactly?
BAUMAN: Sure, absolutely. There have been many statements made over the past week, of course, but this all started, and we have to go back to concerned student 1950, which is a group of students on our campus who started protesting and kind of came forward around our homecoming parade. And at that time, they were calling for changes to diversity requirements. They were calling for more diverse faculty. They were calling for increases in health professionals at mu, specifically professional who is are diverse as well. So they had a list of demands they've published. And those demands still stay. It's not just about Tim Wolfe's resignation. That is what the headlines are about and what the campus seems to be driving for right now. But there are a list of demands as well that that group is pushing for. And that other student and faculty, the football team and faculty and staff have gathered around.
BOLDUAN: Caroline, you are also, as we pointed out, a graduate student at the school. What are you hearing there? Has this reached a point of something's got to give? A lukewarm statement coming out of this governing body meeting, I assume, that's not going to be enough. Has it reached that point where something's going to have to change or the students aren't going to stand for it? What are you hearing on campus?
BAUMAN: Sure. Well, personally, what I'm hearing and also professionally what we're hearing is, absolutely, people are very angry. They want change. They want action. They to want see that the university system cares and they want more than just pr statements. I think that's been made very clear from our student body and from our faculty now as well.
BERMAN: Caroline Bauman, thank you so much. Appreciate you being with us as this is happening.
BERMAN: Again, an emergency meeting happening as we speak at the university to decide what to do.
One of the people that started this discussion is graduate student, Jonathan Butler. He began a hunger strike one week ago, demanding the university President Tim Wolfe's removal.
Jonathan now joins us by the phone.
Can you hear me, Jonathan?
JONATHAN BUTLER, GRADUATE STUDENT, UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI (on the phone): Yes, I can.
BERMAN: Thank you for being with us. I wonder if you can state for us right now what your goals are. It's been a week since you last ate. Anything but water is all you're consuming right now. What do you want to happen?
[11:10:06] BUTLER: Thank you for having me, first off. And to address your first comment, I do want to clarify that this is not the first time anything like this has happened. We really have to take this back historically. To what's happened since black students have come to this campus in 1950. What we looked at came out post- Ferguson, three black women creating an organization called mu for Mike Brown, which I had the pleasure of joining, which really started this conversation about racism on campus. A lot of what we're fighting for right now, a lot of what we're fighting for right now comes out of that initiative of what those three black women stood for. The same thing they stood for we're standing for right now in that we want a more safe and inclusive campus. The goal hasn't changed. With concerned student 1950, the group has our eight demands. Part of those demands is to get the university to address the 1969 LBC demands, so as you can see, there's a history of black students demanding a better campus. But for me specifically, if you look at how the campus has been unfolding and deteriorating in the past 90 days, that's why the main goal has been removing Wolfe. At the end of the day, he's being negligent lent in addressing these issues and the time is no longer for pr statements or for anything to try to pacify the students. We need real and substantial change and leadership that's really going to drive this campus forward.
BOLDUAN: Jonathan, what do you think of -- what do you think of the fact that now more than 30 players on the school's football team are standing in solidarity with you? They put out a picture of them standing arm in arm with you. They're boycotting this Saturday's game, protesting right along with you.
BUTLER: The support is -- was highly unexpected but it was so very much appreciated, standing in solidarity with more than just me, but the movement. I believe so far the football players who are standing with us have made it very clear that when you look at how the -- how the university system hasn't addressed graduate student health, which I am a graduate student, so I lost my health insurance back in August, when they haven't addressed the issues of planned parenthood, when they haven't addressed issues of racism, our issues of sexual assault, which are permeated through our university campus, the football players themselves really wanted to take a stand because they are so separated from the main part of campus. So, they really wanted to utilize their voice because they are students as well as athletes. So, for me, that was just a powerful statement that will live on for years and years to come. Especially as the response we're getting from other universities where students there are calling for their student athletes and other powerful voices to stand with them. So, it truly means a lot to have them standing with the movement as a whole in terms of trying to fight for justice.
BERMAN: We're looking at live pictures, Jonathan. Hang on. The Board of Curator meeting, that's the meeting going on right now to decide what to do at the university. I imagine we should hear from them some time in the next several minutes about if they made any decision. I can't say we're expecting any decision, necessarily.
BOLDUAN: Right. BERMAN: Jonathan, it's been a week since you last ate. Give us a sense of how you're doing and how much longer you're willing to go.
BUTLER: As I've continued to tell people, I'm in this till the end. I'm committed to this initiative. We need to see real change and that's why I'm doing this. But in terms of my body, yes, physically, I'm extremely drained, I'm exhausted. You know, I've had lower back pain. I've had general pain all over my body. I've had an ongoing headache this whole time. My body is literally shutting down on itself, but I think the sacrifice is worth it when you talk about how much black students and students of color and marginalized students in general are not treated like humans on our campus. I think the sacrifice of willing to say I'm willing to sacrifice my life to say it's really this serious. Although I do have these physical pains, what I focus more on is what's happening on campus and, you know, white students and black students and Asian-American students and -- are coming together in the conversations people are having in their classrooms and their offices is really powerful. So, that's what I choose to focus, rather than my physical pain I do have at the moment. It really is about the change that is happening on campus.
BERMAN: Jonathan Butler, thank you so much for being with us.
BUTLER: Thank you.
BERMAN: Other news now, Ben Carson says he is facing tougher scrutiny than any other candidate right now. His rival, Chris Christie, says, are you kidding me? Why the New Jersey governor says he has no sympathy for candidates who can't complain about the media.
[11:15:13] BOLDUAN: And did police officers target a father and his son? Two officers are in court today charged with murdering a 6-year- old boy. This, as we hear one of the officers knew the victims.
And a scandal involving hundreds of students and hundreds of nude pictures as a massive sexting ring is uncovered at one high school. You'll hear about this secret vault and why officials there have no idea what to do next.
[11:20:13] TIM WOLFE, PRESIDENT, UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI: University of Missouri system today --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's very difficult to hear. If you can move the microphone, that would be great.
WOLFE: Yeah, I can. I can't move this mic but I'll just lean closer.
All right, David, can you hear me now?
BERMAN: You're listening right now to University of Missouri President Tim Wolfe trying to announce that he's resigning as head of the university system there, which is a stunning development in and of itself, but audio problems are making it very difficult for him to get this out. He's been trying for a minute. We'll stay on this. BOLDUAN: During the commercial break he was trying to, he said, I'm
resigning from the University of Missouri school system as of today, and then they've been having a technical problem. Let's try to listen in one more time.
WOLFE: -- to this very difficult situation. It is my belief we stopped listening to each other. We didn't respond or react. We got frustrated with each other and we forced individuals, like Jonathan Butler, to take immediate action or unusual steps to affect change. This is not, I repeat not, the way change should come about. Change comes from listening, learning, caring, and conversation. And we have to respect each other enough to stop yelling at each other and start listening, and quit intimidating each other through either our role or whatever means that we decide to use. Unfortunately, this has not happened. And that is why I stand before you today and I take full responsibility for this frustration. And I take full responsibility for the inaction that has occurred. I'd ask everybody, from students to faculty, staff, to my friends, everybody, use my resignation to heal and start talking again to make the changes necessary. And let's focus on changing what we can change today and in the future, not what we can't change, which is what happened in the past.
I truly love everybody here and the great institution and my decision to resign comes out of love, not hate. I'd like to read some scripture that's given me strength. I hope it provides you with some strength as well as we think about what's next.
I have to also give credit to my daughter for reminding me of the scripture Psalm 46:1, "God is our refuge and strength and ever present help in trouble."
We need to use my resignation, please, please use this resignation to heal, not to hate. And let's move forward together for a brighter tomorrow.
God bless all of you. And I thank you for this wonderful opportunity to have led the University of Missouri system. Thank you.
BOLDUAN: And right there you're hearing the news straight from the University of Missouri's president, Tim Wolfe, himself, standing up and saying that he is resigning as the president of University of Missouri. Saying at one point, I take full responsibility for the frustration. He takes full responsibility for the inaction that has occurred.
BERMAN: Joining us by phone is graduate student, Jonathan Butler.
Jonathan Butler has been in a hunger strike for a week to protest. I think the frustration that exists on that campus over the racial discussion that's been taking place, the racial atmosphere that has been at the school for the last several months. Jonathan has been in a hunger strike for seven days. He was mentioned by name by the university president. The president said that Jonathan Butler had to take extraordinary actions to step in to make change.
But, Jonathan, if you can hear me, the university president also said, this is not the way that change should come about. Your reaction to his resignation? Your reaction to his words?
[11:25:02] BUTLER (on the phone): Just, wow. I'm sorry. I just finished crying because this moment really means so much to not just me but so many people because we've been fighting as underrepresented students for so long. And to see that there's a clear stance on racism and clear stance on inequality on campus is huge. I mean, my initial reaction is -- my body got a little more faint because I was just so overwhelmed because of what this truly means. Not just for our university. Not just for our system. But for the nation, that students who want to go to college and get an education can now have a fighting chance at having a fair education on a campus that is safe and inclusive. When we talk about, you know, specifically, you know, this isn't how change should have happened. He's absolutely right. It shouldn't have happened. Years ago when we were trying to have dialogues with administration, we were trying to get things changed for faculty, when we were trying to do all this work on campus, sending e-mails, they weren't listening to us. They really weren't listening to us. And so those are the times they should have been listening. And it shouldn't have taken it for me to put my life on the line for us to get to this place. And so, I hope this sets a precedence going forward for our campus, our system and for the nation and even internationally. That when students are in pain, when students are hurting, they come to the environment on these campuses to make change and to be better people, and to enable us that opportunity to get a full academic experience is the duty of the administration and officials on our campuses.
BOLDUAN: Jonathan, I mean, when we were listening to this -- his resignation speech, I mean, the president himself became emotional when -- in the middle of his words. And you were the only person he mentioned by name, other than his daughter in making this -- in resigning. What did you think? What did you feel in that moment when he mentioned your name?
BUTLER: You know, I really don't have emotion for him, you know, mentioning my name. I think it really is because of the attention the hunger strike got, because I don't think he should have just mentioned my name. He should have mentioned the names of every single student who has been fighting for this for years. It's not just fighting against racism. It's fighting against sexism, against homophobia, for better pay rates for faculty and staff. This is not a "me" thing. This is not a Jonathan Butler thing. This is a community thing. And that's what I would have liked to have seen. I would have liked him to acknowledge the hard work -- this is just me fighting against injustice and the only way I knew how because I've been backed into a corner. But we can't erase the fact there's been so much work done by so many other people on our campus and across this nation.
BERMAN: Wow. Jonathan, you got what you wanted here. You called for the university president to quit. He just quit. I wonder now what you think has changed. Again, in his departure statement he said, we need to start listening to each other. We need to stop shouting and intimidating each other. We need to start listening to each other to affect change. Do you think now that has started?
BUTLER: I think even before this that had started. I wish you guys could be on campus and to see the love that is permeating throughout campus on the students, faculty and staff. We've seen faculty come together, staff come together, students come together, and have tough dialogue about what it means to be on our campus and in our community. And so when you talk about, you know, addressing sexual assault, when we talk about addressing racism, these are conversations that have really started to be amplified in this time period over the past week. And so I think that is a central starting point for change. As we go forward, like I said, before this really set a precedence that, one, students, faculty and staff truly have a voice and leadership over our campuses. Secondly, it really does put forth a precedence that we really do need to at least on our campus do a better job. And since we do have this national spotlight, I think it would be in the best interest of the M.U. system to continue to listen to underrepresented students and continue to do the best they can to make the campus a better place.
BOLDUAN: And as you said yourself, this is the beginning of that long road towards change. But does it go without saying at this point on a week on the hunger strike, that your hunger strike is now over?
BUTLER: Yes, it is officially over. We're still -- we still need to work with the curators to work on measures for shared governance because we do need more voices from student, faculty and staff.